Sustainable Missoula: A little less talk and a lot more climate action

Abby Huseth and Amy Cilimburg

Our hearts go out to communities and ecosystems affected by unprecedented and destructive flooding over the past two weeks, causing severe damage, straining waterways, stranding residents and visitors, and disrupting lives and livelihoods. subsistence.

The jump in water levels along the Yellowstone and other rivers was caused by a rain-on-snow event, in the form of a sequence of cool temperatures, snow and rain combined with melting snow in the spring to flood the waterways. Climate has to do with patterns over time, so it can take a lot of data and analysis to establish that a particular weather event or disaster was caused by the climate crisis. But there is no doubt that the fingerprints of the climate crisis are everywhere in this flood.

Excess heat in the Earth’s climate system disrupts weather patterns and the water cycle, leading to greater variability in precipitation and earlier snowmelt (the water chapter of the assessment of the 2017 Montana climate has a good summary of the water-related climate impacts we can expect to see more of).

As we write this, there is a strong disconnect between our desire to describe and make sense of what is happening, and the emotions it evokes. For all its value, the cautious and nuanced language of science often seems so inadequate in the face of the raw and painful human and ecological costs of climate disasters.

Already this year we have seen severe drought across much of eastern Montana, widespread heat waves across much of the United States and from Iran to Europe to India , and now Bangladesh is partially submerged. It was a source of wildfires across the West. It’s only June.

We also feel this disconnect when it comes to so many other things going on in the world. The images of the massive road destruction in and north of Yellowstone National Park seemed like a painful but apt metaphor. So much is happening to us, from all directions, and none of it seems to make sense: high gas prices and inflation squeeze those trying to make ends meet, while wealthy corporate executives oil companies make huge profits.

Near-daily mass shootings, but even the most basic proposed federal reforms are watered down. Destructive climate-fueled wars, floods, wildfires and heat waves. All the while, while the federal government befriends dictators in the oil states, elected leaders still don’t want to take climate risks seriously, and here in western Montana, one of our congressional candidate is an employee of a fossil fuel company.

It feels like normal feedback loops and accountability structures are broken. How to start restoring them? In a world that seems disconnected, how can we bring all these disparate threads together and be connecting agents?

Physically, when it comes to energy systems and infrastructure: the thread connecting Russia’s terrible and illegal war in Ukraine, high gas prices and inflation, and climate disasters is not hard to unravel. to find. As Roosevelt Institute researchers Lauren Melodia and Kristina Karlsson explain in a brilliant VOLTS podcast, dirty energy is the root of our inflation problems, and if we invest more in our own fossil fuel addiction, even to export, we are more exposed to endless price fluctuations.

It is a fact that rapidly scaling up a cleaner and fairer energy system can eventually stem not only inflation, but also the tide of climate emergencies. Electricity, by the nature of where it is generated and transmitted, will never be the sole property of international pariahs. Although we need policies and advocacy to ensure electricity grids are clean and fair, electricity is more democratic around the world and prices are much more stable.

So let’s work for the electrification of our homes and buildings; better systems for electric vehicles and non-car transport, such as bike lanes and neighborhood greenways; and electrified public transport (yay Mountain Line e-bus and expanded service). And what could be more timely than “Heat pumps for peace and freedom?”

President Biden recently took executive action on several issues that will accelerate the transition to clean energy, including invoking the Defense Production Act for heat pumps and establishing a new federal rule phasing out inefficient furnaces. Nerdy but important and exciting stuff. In sum, we simply need to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible. We must.

Politically and economically: Politicians who choose short-term gains over long-term climate stability must be held accountable. Companies that inflate prices must be brought under control. We must imagine and work for an economic system that does not use GDP and growth as a measure of well-being, because infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet.

Big changes are needed, but the seeds have already been planted and you can help water them. Join a statewide Coalition for Climate Action at NorthWestern Energy’s Butte office July 8-11. Sign Families for a Livable Climate’s letter to the NorthWestern Energy Board of Directors asking them to transition Montana’s largest electric utility to clean, affordable energy NOW. Work to elect strong climate leaders in November!

And socially: equity must be at the heart of the solutions. When we raise our voices and partner with the most vulnerable and affected, we can create a more livable future for all. We are not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm. Relationships are the key to change. Every action has ripple effects that we cannot often see; we need to believe that what we do matters, as individuals and as a Missoula community.

That’s why we’re excited to launch our Clean Air – Healthy Homes project, designed to better understand the impacts of wildfire smoke on our neighbors. Missoula is also not immune to extreme heat, and through this project and additional efforts with Missoula County and their summer climate comrade, we aim to work with our partners to increase Missoula’s resilience to climate impacts, with equity at the center.

And finally, we need to keep talking about the climate crisis and connecting the dots between everything that’s going on. A warming climate loads the dice for extreme weather events and disasters, and an energy system that depends on fossil fuels will continue to destroy lives and livelihoods.

The more we can help friends, family and colleagues understand that the climate crisis is not a future possibility but is here now, the more we can build the movement for urgent action to avert the worst impacts. . Also offer suggestions to be part of the solutions; it can help avoid getting stuck in feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.

There’s a lot to worry about, and it can all seem overwhelming. This summer, we hope you can take the time you need to rest and recharge, reconnect with people and the natural world, and then recommit to staying engaged in the movement to build a livable future. Stay tuned for various Climate Smart volunteer opportunities and community events, including Wildfire Smoke Ready Week July 9-16, Mt Jumbo Balsamroot Seed Drive July 1-15, Green Team River City Roots Festival August 26-27 and our annual Climate & Clean Energy Fair on September 17.

As a community, let’s continue to work to restore connections and build a more equitable, vibrant and climate-friendly world.

Abby Huseth is the Outreach Director and Amy Cilimburg is the Executive Director of Climate Smart Missoula. This sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via Missoula Stream – most weeks by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Events

Here we offer ideas on sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. To learn more, consider signing up for the Climate Smart eNewsletter via their homepage here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews through their homepage here.

It’s farmer’s market season! Support local food and farmers. The Missoula Farmers’ Market at XXXX celebrates its 50th season – markets are held Saturday mornings through October, as well as Tuesday evenings July through September. The Clark Fork River Market runs through October.

Sign up to become a volunteer Zero Waste Cafeteria Coach with MCPS.

June 26, 6 p.m.: Dr. Jane Goodall talks about “Hope Through Action” at UM. Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and United Nations Messenger of Peace, will speak at the University of Montana on the Oval on Sunday, June 26. Goodall’s speech, “Hope Through Action,” is part of UM’s President’s Lecture Series. The conference is free and open to the community, and will also be streamed virtually.

July 8-11: Statewide Climate Coalition Actions at NorthWestern Energy in Butte. Save the date and contact Abby for more information.

July 135 p.m.: Annual Jeannette Rankin Peace Center Peace Party at Paddleheads Stadium.

Remember – Donating materials to Home Resource spins the wheels of reuse in our community; and remember everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff can be found at


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